Man's Saltillo-style sarape (wearing blanket) - ROM2002_517_15


Man's Saltillo-style sarape (wearing blanket)

Medium:Tapestry with cotton warp and wool weft
Geography: Perhaps made in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico
Date: 1800-1860
255 x 135 cm
Object number: 2002.19.12
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. W. Kent Newcomb. Certified by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. Attestée par la Commission canadienne d'examen des exportations de biens culturels en vertu de la Loi sur l'exportation et l'importation de biens culturels.
Not on view
Description This is an example of a classic Saltillo-style sarape. This handsome sarape was finely woven with 22 warps (vertical threads) and 100 wefts (horizontal threads) per inch. The short warp fringe, although sparse, has survived at both ends.

The Mexican sarape reached its peak during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was probably inspired by pre-Conquest cloaks and Spanish cape styles. High-status sarapes, woven in two loom widths, featured interlocking geometric motifs of enormous complexity. The finest sarapes were said to come from Saltillo in the northern state of Coahuila — a region settled after the Spanish Conquest by skilled weavers from the central-Mexican state of Tlaxcala. Examples from competing workshops in Zacatecas or Querétaro became known as Saltillo-style sarapes.

The best sarapes of the Classic Period (1750-1860), tapestry-woven on treadle-looms, often featured a vertical mosaic field of zigzag stripes with a concentric serrated diamond at the centre. Less usual, but also popular after 1800, was a central baroque or scalloped medallion. Most sarapes were made from two matched panels. A man could drape his sarape over his shoulders like a cloak, or, if the central seam was left open, he could wear his sarape or jorongo like a Peruvian poncho.

While developing this exhibition, we sent samples from two of these sarapes (the ones with the central diamond designs) to the Canadian Conservation Institute for dye analysis. Tests confirmed that the wool weft (horizontal) threads were all dyed with natural colourants, indicating these sarapes were likely produced before the introduction of synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century.

Carminic acid from the cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) insect, which has been used as a textile dye in Mexico for over 2,000 years, provided the red shades. Indigo (Indigofera suffruticosa) was detected on the blue and black threads. Marigold (Tagetes spp.) provided yellow and green-blue shades. These red, blue, and yellow colourants were also mixed to give secondary shades, such as green, black, and buff. Alum and a plant rich in tannin were among the mordants needed to fix the dyes.

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